Another thing I came across on the weekend while sorting through storage boxes was all my old thesis stuff. Two boxes, filled with notebooks, log books, specimens, and negatives.
So many negatives. Remember them? Much of my thesis involved looking at tiny bits of steel under electron microscopes and I have the photos to prove it.
The weird thing was I couldn’t throw any of it away. I went through those boxes fully intending to consign every last item to the scrap heap… but I couldn’t.
I started flicking through the ‘thinking’ notebooks (11 of them) and the literature review notebooks (6 I think) and the experimental log books… and was reminded of hours and hours and hours and HOURS of work (and sweat and tears).
Somehow I had consigned the 5-1/2 years of my thesis into an amorphous blob of ‘research’ (and pain) and hadn’t given much thought to what exactly I had been doing all that time. It wasn’t until the detritus spilled out over my parents’ kitchen table that the memory of all the days spent in the metallography laboratory, the numerous dilatometry sessions, the hours spent in the dark with electron microscopes… came flooding back.
It looked like such a lot of work. And it was not a little overwhelming to think I actually did all that, understood all that. (Because it’s, er, a bit of a struggle now!)
It’s ridiculous to keep it, of course. It’s long past the seven years I had to keep it. I’m never going to need any of it. I certainly don’t have the storage space. But for some reason it’s all still sitting in a pile in my living room.
One interesting thing that struck me about my old ‘thinking’ notebooks is how typical they are of the way I work now. All my thoughts, planning, results, hypotheses, to-do lists etc bundled together in dated order… One numbered notebook after the other. There’s liberal use of highlighters too. I started flicking through some of them and they felt immediately familiar. They could have been any one of my current WIP notebooks — although the subject matter’s a bit different!
Now I just have to decide what to do with it all… Any suggestions?